Interview: Björn "Speed" Strid of Soilwork

Visionary Swedish metallers, Soilwork, will be hitting up Australia for some very special shows in promotion of their eleventh studio album. The bands brand new album "Verkligheten" is out now via Nuclear Blast Records, which further cements Soilwork as a fantastic melodic death metal band that shows no signs of tiring 20 years into their career. We got to speak with vocalist, Björn "Speed" Strid, where we discussed juggling two bands, his love for Australia, postponing shows and plenty more.

How's everything going for you right now?

Pretty good, it's been a very busy Summer tour wise. We've been doing both Soilwork and A Night Flight Orchestra, I think it was about 34 shows in total back to back playing every weekend. So it was rather intense, but it's been really good. No complaints from me. Just taking some time off now to rest a bit, take a couple of interviews obviously, and then he come back to Australia.

Very good. Did you pull double duty a couple of times over the Summer with Soilwork and A Night Flight Orchestra?

Yes I did actually, I think there were 3 festivals where I opened up with doing ANFO, and then you get an hour break and then I was back on stage with Soilwork. It was kind of strange but it worked really well, better than I expected actually. It was almost like I was singing better with Soilwork too, so doing ANFO was kind of like a vocal warm up I guess you could say. It might have been smarter for me to do this 20 years ago rather than waiting until now (laughs) but yeah it can be exhausting but mostly it's fun and I enjoy it.

When playing in both bands and you look into the crowd during your performance, do you see the same sort of faces or is there a different contrast in people?

It's slightly different but I still see a bunch of familiar faces, there's a lot of metal fans on both sides. We mostly play rock festivals with A Night Flight Orchestra, so it's definitely crossing over, which is really interesting. You seem people wearing black metal patches on their jacket and they're sort of dancing to "Gemini" you know? It's pretty cool. It's very surprising because it seems like metalheads can be pretty objective at times.

You're heading to Australia at the end of October for a few dates, and it's been about 3 years since you were here last, so are you excited to get back here and play live to your fans?

Absolutely, yeah I mean as you know we were meant to come over in the beginning of the year but there was a lot of circumstances that prevented us from coming during that time. I was just glad that we could reschedule it and it feel great to be coming back, as you said it's been about 3 years, so yeah I can't wait.

We can't wait either. Soilwork seems to tour here every 3 years it seems with each album cycle. But there was a 4 year gap this time around between The Ride Majestic and your latest studio album Verkligheten. So there was a bit of a longer wait. Did that sort of give you a chance to not so much take a break but to focus on A Night Flight Orchestra and sink your teeth into the writing process a bit more with Soilwork?

Yeah I think so and it was really good for us, and as you mentioned we did a bunch of ANFO stuff as well. Obviously needed some time off as well and once we got into the song writing process it worked out really well and there was a constant flow of inspiration. I think we recreated something really interesting with this new album, it feels really good and I think it's better than The Ride Majestic as well.

With your shows here in Australia, it's a headline tour, so a bit different to your Summer where you playing in front of 10's of thousand of people at those festivals. Do you enjoy the smaller, more intimate venue when there's a room filled with 100% Soilwork fans?

Yeah I do appreciate both things, like you mentioned, it's more intimate at a club show and of course you want to play in front of a lot of people, as many people as possible. But there's also a really nice vibe in the club atmosphere, unless it gets extremely hot (laughs) which happened not long ago in Italy when it was about 50 degrees inside and it was just a nightmare. So let's just hope that isn't going to happen in Australia. But in general I would say it's a really cool vibe playing in a club and I always feel great playing on stage in Australia no matter what venue we are in, it's always a really cool vibe with the crowd.

We just recently had Metallica cancel their Australian tour due to James Hetfield going back to rehab. Has Soilwork ever experienced any sort of fan backlash or any sort of uncomfortable positions where you've had to reschedule a tour or cancel a tour?

Well I mean, we all hate to disappoint the fans, you know that's the worst feeling it really is. Especially when there's people that bought flight tickets and hotel and whatnot. So it's tough and it's something we don't take lightly obviously. So I was just glad that we could reschedule and it would have been a lot worse if we didn't have anything lined up and weren't able to reschedule the tour. But I also want to take the time to apologise to those people who may have lost money due to us not coming when were meant to, but those tickets are obviously still valid so I hope they still come to our show. But yeah it sucks for sure.

With the 4 year gap between albums, do you think this is something that might become a regular thing now that you're in 2 bands and you might not be able to release a Soilwork album every 2-3 years?

Maybe, I think we're in a scenario now where ANFO has been doing incredibly well in Europe at least. We would like to separate things a bit more, I think this Summer was a bit crazy and it turned out really well but I think it's better if we have a deal where we do Soilwork one year and the ANFO one year. Otherwise it's just going to turn into a mess you know? So yeah, it will probably still be about 3 years between albums I would say, which sounds reasonable. But we would love to come to Australia with A Night Flight Orchestra as well of course, so I guess we shall see.

That would be great! After 20 years of Soilwork and 10 albums deep into your career, does it get hard sometimes to make up a setlist with so many quality songs at your disposal? And have you decided what the setlists will be like for the Australian tour?

Yeah I mean it's not an easy task you know, putting together a setlist, there's so many albums and of course you want to focus on maybe the later albums too. I think it's also a new era for the band as well, especially with the 3 latest albums, so that's important to us so that we promote those albums because that's where we are right now as a band. But we also want to give long time fans a treat with all of the old stuff as well, so it's really hard to cram everything in there. I think we usually do pretty well when we put together a setlist and also try to change it up a bit and not always play the same songs. There's no way we can skip "Stabbing The Drama" obviously, but what's been interesting here in Europe is that we had to exchange "Stabbing The Drama" as the encore and we put "Stålfågel" there instead. Because we felt that song gave a bigger reaction from the crowd compared to "Stabbing The Drama" so that's definitely a first. That was really refreshing actually, so let's see if we get the same reaction in Australia, (laughs) I don't know, that's going to be interesting.

I'm sure you could play anything and the fans would go nuts.

OK then cool (laughs) well that's good to know.

Do you have any fond memories of your time here in Australia? Any funny stories you could share?

We've had so many good times, I think that maybe this is the 7th time we've come to Australia? That's pretty crazy. I remember when I was celebrating my 25th birthday in Brisbane, overlooking the bridge and smoking a cigar. So that was a good time. Obviously going to all of the zoos and the sanctuaries, getting to see all of the native animals and hold a koala. Last time, I actually got to bring my Dad with me to Australia as well, that was a great memory and we had 2 full days off so we got to see some cool places and also play in New Zealand for the first time. I will never forget that tour and having my Dad with me as well, that was great.

What are some new albums that you're digging at the moment?

I'm really liking the new Abbath album, lots of black metal actually. The last couple of Tribulation albums have been really cool, and also digging the new Opeth stuff as well. Very nice. Any words for your Australian fans before you hit up our shores? I'm just excited and I hope to see all of you at the shows, it's going to be spectacular!

Thanks very much Bjorn, see you soon and all the best.

Thank you so much, how's the weather going to be there though? Is it going to be Spring there?

Yeah middle of Spring here at the moment, getting close to Summer so it's going to be very warm. Don't forget to pack some shorts and sunscreen.

Alright then will do (laughs), thanks very much and take care.


SOILWORK Tour Dates:

Thursday 31st October BRISBANE, The Triffid

Friday 1st November SYDNEY, Manning Bar

Saturday 2nd November MELBOURNE, Max Watts

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